Summer used to be a time when classical musicians packed their instruments and headed for well-earned vacations in the countryside. But there has been a shift in recent years, with a hive of orchestral, big band and operatic activity continuing through July and August. Even better, smart organizations take advantage of Minnesota's glorious (but all too short) summer, booking their shows in the great outdoors. Here are some of the best open-air concerts coming this summer, representing a gamut of musical tastes and styles.

1. Minnesota Orchestra plays Plymouth

Of all the band shells in the metro area, the Hilde Performance Center is one of the most spectacular, with a rear glass wall offering views of the surrounding wetland landscape. The Hilde traditionally hosts the "Music in Plymouth" celebration, an annual cultural event celebrating its 47th season. Anchoring this year's extravaganza is an hourlong appearance by the world-class Minnesota Orchestra, set to perform a selection of favorites under associate conductor Akiko Fujimoto. Other attractions include puppet theater, face painting, crazy hair artists and fireworks — oh, and big screens to simulcast the evening's festivities. Arrive early for the Minnesota Orchestra's 8:30 p.m. concert to secure decent sightlines. (July 2, free, Hilde Performance Center, Plymouth,

2. Opera in ruins

Mill City Summer Opera has staged a production in the courtyard ruins at Mill City Museum every summer since 2012. But this year's staging of Mozart's "Così fan tutte" will be the its last, since the museum opted not to extend the opera company's lease beyond 2019. MCSO's brand-new artistic director, Crystal Manich, directs a cast of mainly Minnesota-based singers and promises a "female-forward" take on Mozart's comic tale of two young men who play dangerous games to test their lovers' fidelity. Bugs and aircraft noise can be an issue in the open-air setting, but the courtyard's visuals make for a gorgeous setting. (July 12-24, $50-$125, Mill City Museum, Mpls.,

3. Minnesota Sinfonia's fountain of youth

Soon celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Minnesota Sinfonia is a professional chamber orchestra with more than 30 players. The group has a year-round schedule filled with free concerts and educational work, but its al fresco summer concerts are particularly effervescent. Don't miss the summer season finale at Lake Harriet, where Sinfonia players are joined on stage by 50 musicians from the orchestra's annual Youth Outreach week. The program stars Mendelssohn's swirling "Scottish" Symphony. Also featured is Edouard Lalo's Cello Concerto, performed by the Sinfonia's 2019 Youth Artist Competition Award winner, Dylan Kinneavy. (July 26, free, Lake Harriet Band Shell, Mpls.,

4. Brio Brass blows a Raspberry

The raspberry fields are long gone, but the city of Hopkins' annual Raspberry Festival lives on. The event comes with all the usual trappings of a small-town summer festival — parade, vintage hot rods, coronation ceremony, five-mile and one-mile runs. There's also an annual Festival of Bands event, known for being a midsummer mecca for brass and wind enthusiasts. Taking the stage at 1 p.m. is Brio Brass, a band with more than 50 members playing a variety of repertoire including show tunes, pop and jazz, all arranged by Brio Brass founder Rick Rueckert. Taking the stage at 3 p.m. is the festival's host: the Hopkins Westwind Concert Band. (July 20, free, Downtown Park, Hopkins,

5. Opera on the lake

Probably the greatest operetta ever written, Johann Strauss' "Die Fledermaus" (aka "The Bat") is a bubbling tale of partying and amorous chicanery in 19th-century Vienna. Opera on the Lake, a brand-new Minnesota company, brings Strauss' catchy tunes and toe-tapping dance rhythms to life with a production inside Como Lake's airy pavilion. Opera on the Lake was founded this year by soprano and University of Minnesota grad Anne Wieben, who also sings the lead part of Rosalinde. Wieben promises a production that uses "every inch available" of the performing space at Como Pavilion. Which means characters will interact not just on the stage — but also at the bar and in the aisles, with some "maybe even making their entrance from the lake." (July 24-27, $25, Como Lakeside Pavilion, St. Paul,

6. Minneapolis Pops takes two

"A bit of silliness to connect some interesting music." That's how the Minnesota Pops' artistic director Jere Lantz playfully described "It Takes Two," one of two programs closing the orchestra's current season. The July 27 concert features pieces written by two artists — say, Rodgers & Hammerstein or Lerner & Loewe — or those involving two characters — think Romeo & Juliet, Hansel & Gretel. Tim Russell (of "Prairie Home Companion" fame) hosts "The People's Choice" the following evening, a show where audience members get to vote on which pieces they hear. Both concerts are set at the Lake Harriet Band Shell, a picturesque spot to catch the Pops in its 70th anniversary season. (July 27-28, free, Lake Harriet Band Shell, Mpls.,

7. Opera on the river

"Opera on the River" is the inaugural production of Operatunity Theatre, a new company aiming to build "a nationally, if not internationally recognized music festival" in the Stillwater area. The star of its inaugural production is Stillwater native Jack Swanson, a 20-something tenor who already sang lead roles at prestigious companies including England's Glyndebourne and Los Angeles Opera. Swanson's riverfront concert promises a selection of operatic arias and music theater pieces, performed with a supporting cast of artists. "From the very beginning of my music career, this town's community has supported me," Swanson said in a statement. "I cannot wait to return to Stillwater this August." (Aug. 10, free, Lowell Park, Stillwater,

8. 'Stars and Stripes' by torchlight

The 1st John Philip Sousa Memorial Band hits the stage just as the sun sets for its annual torchlight concert. Led by irrepressible founder Scott Crosbie, the band specializes in the music of America's march king and ends every concert with "Stars and Stripes Forever." At the torchlight concert, the group rolls back the decades to a more innocent age of entertainment, with 25-cent ice cream cones and 5-cent balloons available for purchase. Other attractions include a sleight-of-hand magician, an Italian organ grinder and penny-farthing bicycles. The biggest draw, though, is Sousa's wonderfully rousing and infectious music, which makes Crosbie's band so fun to hear. (Aug. 11, free, Centennial Lakes Park, Edina,

Terry Blain is a freelance classical music critic for the Star Tribune. Reach him at